Monday, September 03, 2007

DIY OT: Gymnastics

We love Scooter's occupational therapy, even if we're paying for it out-of-pocket. Nonetheless, we're always on the look-out for ways to incorporate aspects of OT into everyday life, both to reinforce what he's doing with his therapist and to give it a little boost.

After the initial evaluation, when the therapist who had observed Scooter set his initial goals, we found it interesting how many of the activities he was doing in OT mirrored what he did in his gymnastics lessons. Now we would never suggest that gymnastics class could take the place of OT since there isn't the same individual attention and the activities at OT are manipulated to target his particular needs, but his weekly 50 minutes in the gym has definitely worked in tandem with the OT.

Scooter spends some time out of every OT session on the trampoline. This is one of the ways he has worked on two-footed jumps. It also plays an important role in the work on his sensory processing issues; jumping on a trampoline is an exciting action, and so his therapist has him work on catching a ball while jumping so that he has to concentrate and maintain focus. In gymnastics, they nearly always get a turn on the trampoline. Even though Scooter has always loved jumping on it, he couldn't do any of the skills demonstrated by his teachers before he started OT. Now, he's still behind the rest of his class, but he can at least jump without falling and attempt some of the more advanced skills.

Scooter's therapist also creates obstacle courses for him that require running, jumping, walking on a balance beam, climbing, and descending. A lot of this works on his balance and bilateral coordination, both of which are iffy. His gymnastics teachers tend to do something very similar for part of the class, incorporating various actions on the balance beam, rolls, and getting onto and off of different foam shapes. For the balance beam, Scooter frequently insists on holding a teacher's hand and refuses to go backwards, but I'll be interested to see if that has changed when he returns to class in a couple of weeks since he has gotten better about the balance beam in OT.

One other activity that is usually part of the obstacle course at OT is the ball pit. Most of the time, the intended path ends with him jumping into the ball pit. Frequently the therapist will roll him around in the balls or press him with a mat, both activities that work on the proprioceptive sense and are intended to help him organize himself physically. At gymnastics, they have an enormous pit filled with big pieces of foam (like cushion foam). There are platforms from which the kids can jump in, and then they have to 'swim' around in it and use their upper body strength to get out. This has a similar effect to the therapist pressing on him--and the foam pit has ended up being a favorite activity, only slightly behind the trampoline.

Only Scooter's last session of gymnastics overlapped with his OT. When we let his gymnastics teacher know about what he was doing in OT and how it shared components with gymnastics, she paid extra attention to those skills and updated us on how he was doing. She also let us know that having that information plus my explanation of how he has trouble filtering out meaningful noise from background noise helped her deal with him and keep him on task. We'll be doing the same thing for his next session of gymnastics, so I am hopeful that it will be an even stronger reinforcement of his OT.


Lisa b said...

Wow. Good work in being able to make this connection for the gymnastics teacher. I have figured out that what eveyrone means when they say you have to advocate for your child is actually that you have to figure out how to get people to do what the child needs.
I have been looking into aqua and hippo (horse) therapy but I hadn't thought about gymnastics. I'll have to file this away. thanks

Lisa b said...

Oh and understanding the difficulty some kids have in filtering of background noise has been the single most amazing and important thing I have learned as a teacher.

Mad Hatter said...

It's good to know that Scooter's hard-fought-for OT is working out well for him. It's also nice to imagine him gaining confidence from these new-found skills in his gymnastics class.

kittenpie said...

That is really interesting! I recall the hospital OT having all that kind of equipment, big balls and balance beams and ramps and such, now that you mention it.